Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Welcome to the Brutons.... SCOUT

We've finally succumbed.

Molly's spent a long time pestering us over this. Pitiful notes left overnight "I'm lonely and would love an 'ickle friend to cuddle" was one of them. But various things got in the way, most obviously Molly's GCSE revision and exams (results are on the 20th August). But then a work colleague announced that their cat was pregnant, and due whilst Molly's exams were on, meaning the kittens would be ready to wean and rehome around now.

This was them a couple of days old...

Yes. Spectacularly cute.

Louise had always said there was no way she'd have another ginger tom after she had so many years with her wonderful boy Timmy (see here and here). But all it really took was a photo of the bundles of fur and she was sold. So today we went and picked up our new member of the family.

As for the name, Molly came up with SCOUT (from Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird) before we knew we were getting a boy. But it's just stuck. So Scout it is.

And here he is.... getting acquainted with life at Bruton Mansions...


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ranty, ranty, ranty. It was going to be Louise birthday related, now it's simply a down the pub, look at the privilege in action thing...

So, I just wrote a lengthy diatribe on something. Moany. Ranty. Moany. Ranty. As is my want. I cultivate the idea of the curmudgeon, the whole Warren Ellis thing without the talent (or the health problems. Get well soon Warren). And then realised I couldn't post it without Louise working out what her birthday present is. Because despite the paucity of posting over the last god knows how many years, Louise still uses this to look through the family history from time to time. And seeing as this is one of those **SPECIAL** birthdays, seeing as I've been sweating over what to get her and had finally figured it out and sorted it all out... there's no way I'm giving it away till Aug 19th. Because it's good. It's BLOODY GOOD. It's great husband sort of good. (Hi Louise.)

So... instead, you'll have to cope with me ranting over things that happen down the pub. Because why not?

One of the strangest things that's happened to me over the last couple of years is that I actually have a local. In fact, I practically have two. One's a writing pub, the other's a Gin palace of a pub. The Gin Palace is only open a few nights a week but it's a lovely place to try a new gin or three. They have 20-30 on at any time, but the writing place is great, I sit and relax and write, and drink coffee early in the evening and G&T (Monkey 47) later in the evening. Hell, I even have a regular seat. Ridiculous I know.

It's all down to quitting the fags (three years plus now. May 2012. And yes, I still miss it every day). One of the biggest problems was the lack of a quick and effective mind hoovering of a break that nipping outside in the garden gave me. So instead I find it easier to concentrate when I'm somewhere else, writing in public means I have to concentrate harder on the writing and less on the surroundings. It works for me anyway.

The ONLY problem with the pub? Absolutely nothing to do with the pub itself and everything to do with the clientèle. There's a certain type of customer, and I'd be stereotyping to say they have children at the local private school, but well, they do.

Take the other day for example. It's sports day for the private junior school/prep school/mini indoctrination and privilege building centre (call it what you want). In walks a couple of families, kids about 5/6, hyper as hell. As for the parents, well... mums who spend their time at the salon and boutique getting everything exactly right because heaven forbid they'd be a social outcast due to an ill-chosen bag or the wrong shade of spray tan. And dads who genuinely think it's ok to wear blue/beige suits, shirts open way too low and deck shoes sans socks. Sure, the fashion mags say sockless with suit works, but not if you're a 30-40 something middle ager but a touch of the unsightly paunch.

Anyway. The party goes outside. Eventually. Not before the kids run around and practically bounce off everything in sight; chairs, tables, the bar, themselves, their parents, doors, walls, the waiting staff. But outside obviously isn't enough. Time to have a fun race through the pub, in the fire exit and out the front, screaming loudly as they go. Over. And over. And over. And over. And over. Parents of little Tarquin x 2 doing absolutely sod all except get another round of belinis. Which is when both kids climb onto the tall, revolving stools at the bar and stand up on them. Shouty, shouty, shouty. Spinny spinny spinny. Dad ignores this completely. Then they climb ONTO the dividing wall between ball and the rest of the room. So now, they're a good 5ft off the ground and nope, dad STILL hasn't noticed. Nor for that matter, has mum, who's at the bar now and has actually walked PAST the kids to get there. The level of consciously ignoring the kids to get to this point is something that's obviously taken years to hone to this supreme height of shitty parenting. Nor do they notice when the kids JUMP off the dividing wall onto the seats below.

Thing is, this isn't anything like an isolated incident. Nor is it limited to the private school. But seeing as it is my local, seeing as I'm there a fair bit, writing my stuff and drinking my coffee / G&T, my anecdotal observations suggest that there's a lot of really overly-entitled, rude, ignorant little Tarquins and Tarquinas running around here.

And.... rant over. Back to writing about nice stuff. In fact, tomorrow we have a fantastically lovely nice thing for you to look at.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

In praise of the 4-day week.

Back in Birmingham, working as a Science lab tech at schools I used to work 5-days, 40 weeks of the year, with school holidays off. But I also used to work at Nostalgia & Comics, blessed comic shop in Birmingham, every Saturday as well. This pretty much meant I used to do a full-time job like regular people do.

Up here in Pocklington, working as ICT/Computing Teaching Assistant & Technician I started off doing 4 and a half days a week, holidays and weekends off. Oh, the bliss of a full weekend, especially on the rare occasions that I managed to actually leave school on Friday lunchtime, where it would sort of, almost feel like a three day weekend.

But then Molly grew up and started getting to school herself, which meant the reason for me needing to leave school at a time to pick Molly up was no longer there. Hence as soon as she got keys I found myself working later. And later. And later. Getting things done, filling the available time and more. You know how it goes. Eventually I realised I was easily working at least an hour extra every day and shuffled my working patterns around to stop this. Hence I now work Monday to Thursday. Have been for more than a year now. And bloody hell, it's a wonderful, wonderful thing. Seriously, if you can do it, you should do it.

It takes a while to get used to sure enough. Suddenly Wednesday is no longer the middle of the week, it's the day before you get that Friday feeling, and speaking of which Friday is now Thursday. Which means you wake up on Friday feeling a sense of incredible freedom, full of potential. Well, that is, if you wake up early enough. I'd be awake to see Louise out, and then Molly out, but all too often I'd head back to bed and completely waste the morning.

The solution? Start booking stuff for Friday morning. Doctors, dentist, deliveries, whatever I could, just arrange it for 9, stick all the alarms on and get out of the damn house. And getting out of the damn house meant it was a day full of potential. Or, more to the point, a day full of writing. Friday became, and is still, my favourite day of the week. A familiar pattern developed easily. Get up, do stuff, fulfil appointments, get things that need getting, then it's off to the local bar for coffee, copious amounts of coffee accompanied by similarly copious amounts of writing. The reviews seem to flow better there, less distractions, more focus. Before I know it, it's midday and I'm caffeined up to the gills. By then it's time for home and the afternoon. Some days that can be a trip to Burnby Hall, the local gardens. Some days it's jump in the car and head further afield for an explore (always with the laptop and reading material of course). Some days it's stay at home and listen to Mayo & Kermode's film review on Radio 5. But no matter what it is, the day always seems to be full of getting stuff done. And anyone that knows me knows what a joy it is to get things done.

So yes, if you can, switch to a 4-day week. It's so brilliant that I'm trying to work out if there's any way I can manage to swing a 3-day week. Unlikely, but who knows.

Of course, all this free time means I simply have longer to work on writing. I love it sure, but there's a bloody good argument to be made that I'm actually working a LOT more now than when I did do a proper 6-days a week thing!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Molly Bruton... her school days in pictures...

Incredibly, Molly Alice Bruton finished her GCSEs last week. I was going to say she finished her compulsory education, but the ridiculous state of education in this day and age means she has to stay on until 18, as does everyone else, whether they want to or not. Yes, fair enough, she would have stayed on anyway, but that's not the bloody point.

So. A lifetime in education... her lifetime at least. And yes, this is all being done because:

1) I love her dearly.
2) It's great fun embarrassing her this way.

So, here we go...

2003: The very first day at school, St Chads Birmingham. Doesn't she just look adorable?

2006: We move to Yorkshire, which means it's her last day at St Chads Birmingham...

.... and her first days at St Mary & St Joseph Pocklington....

After so many lovely years at St Mary & St Josephs, she had to leave eventually, so it's 2010 and she's finishing primary school. There were tears. Of course there were tears.

And leaving Primary School naturally means starting secondary school.... Sept 2010...Woldgate College...


And now it's 2015. Which means she's 15, and she's just finished her GCSE exams. She's got 12 weeks off. And these were her last days at Woldgate College....

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Oh FFS, not another apologetic "I haven't posted here for a while" post....


Yep. It is.

Still. At least it's something.

In all truth, I had big plans to roar like a lion into 2015, new year, new regime etc etc. But resolutions are made to be broken eh? As it is, all I can promise is a determination to put something on here every so often. Where every so often is a time period somewhat less than annually and somewhat more than daily. In between those two goalposts I reckon we'll hit a mark.

The big problem with any return to blogging here is that it's been so bloody long that I had a sense that the return post should be SOMETHING, have a sense of importance, gravitas, not just waffling about shite.

Then I realised that this is nothing more than me talking to me on a public forum, so fuck the idea of gravitas and I'll treat it like a monologue between me and me and see how that goes.

So. How has life been recently Richard?

Well, thanks for asking Richard. It's been shit and great and all points in between, just as I imagine everyone's life has been. (Find me someone permanently happy and I'll show you a moron or a madman).

ME: Well. I'm still working in the same primary school I wrote about a long time back. It's still fun. I'm still doing the computers there. I'm still wracked with self-doubt about my capabilities in this role. I still know being wracked with self-doubt is silly, as the head knows just what I'm doing and knows my teaching kids about Computing is far more important than sorting everything out about the server and getting to the bottom of Active Directory et al.

I'm way more involved in the whole comics thing as well now. Really, really involved. Looking bac over the Fictions archives I see many references to the idea of getting the review queue down to zero. It still hasn't happened. I doubt it ever will. But the sensible bit of me realises that it's not such a big deal to do that anymore. It's fine to have more people wanting you to look at their cherished work than you have time to. It's a compliment dammit. So yes, I keep writing about comics, keep reviewing comics, day after day after day.

Family.... well, that's a bit more complicated. Not because much has changed, not at all, it's still me, Louise and Molly here at Bruton mansions, but you may be aware of the rules regarding me writing.... I can talk about me till the cows come home but I'm not really allowed to talk about Mrs B all that much. And now that Molly is (amazingly) 15 and heading towards GCSEs and adulthood in a few months, I'm not really allowed to talk about all the endearingly embarrassing things my lovely daughter does anymore.  Suffice it to say this year she was a nightmare, a wonder, a marvel, a terror, a delight, source of many worries, source of so much pride.... and frankly any parent who tells you it's all fantastic is a downright bloody liar. Would we have it any other way? Are we incredibly proud of the sterling young lady we've somehow managed to bring up? Will we support her in any and all forms her life takes? Bloody hell, yes. Are we telling you it's all been fab these past couple of years? Hell No.

Mom: Well, she's not exactly getting better. Seriously, what did you expect, the poor woman's got Alzheimers, has probably had it for decades before it was properly diagnosed, it would certainly account for all manner of weird behaviours during my teen years if she did actually have the dread disease. It's merely a matter of time right now before we get the call from the care home to tell us she's gone, and frankly all of us are wishing it to be sooner than later. That includes the pre-Alzheimers mom as well. All those people who talk to you about the amount of care and solace and comfort we can give to Alzheimer's patients, feel free to treat it with a grain of salt. Mom's been lost to us all, to the world, for a good year plus now. There's no comfort we can give here, no communication she recognises, no touch see finds relaxing. Nothing. A blank. Nothing at all. She's simply gone. The saddest thing is we can't simply let her go, can't acknowledge legally that the best thing for all concerned, most importantly her, the woman who always said, quite genuinely, that we should shoot her before she became like this, would be to end her life. A mercy killing.

You want to argue with me about euthanasia? Come see my mother. That should cure you of all your keep 'em all alive as long as possible.

It's certainly made me contemplate my own end. If it happens to me I plan to have so many checks in place that me and mine will be able to recognise the signs. Once we do I'm planning on taking up smoking once more for a few months whilst I still can, sorting out all my effects, travelling a bit if I'm physically able, doing a few things I always fancied, and then finding some way of checking out early. My own terms, my own time, still in relative control.

Okay. Seeing as it's late. Real late. I should really shut this damn thing down and go bed. Go sleep. Forgive the spelling mistakes. Frankly I don't care. Oscar Wilde said it best; you don;'t pay me enough to spellcheck my words. Actually, Wilde said nothing of the sort. But he would have. He really would. And if he didn't I'd still quote him as such.

One eye has just closed. I imagine that's some sort of strange biological subtext for "get the fuck to bed moron". My body commands. I merely do it's bidding.

Next time I tell you all about the secrets to life.

Nah, probably in six months I'll be back talking of how it's been another six months where I haven't done much here. Hey, fingers crossed it's not, eh?